Evil has found “new, effective and pervasive ways” to flourish on the internet, Pope Francis has said.
The Pope said the spread of “extreme pornography” meant that society may no longer be capable of protecting children.
He also listed several “extremely troubling things” found on the “dark side” of the web, including the rise in sexting (sending explicit personal photos), online bullying and online sex trafficking.
The Pontiff was speaking to an international congress on protecting children.
“The spread of ever more extreme pornography and other improper uses of the net not only causes disorders, dependencies and grave harm among adults, but also has a real impact on the way we view love and relations between the sexes,” he said.
The Pope added that, as a society, “We would be seriously deluding ourselves were we to think that a society where an abnormal consumption of internet sex is rampant among adults could be capable of effectively protecting minors.”
He said the Church had been guilty of its own failures in child protection and that it therefore feels “especially bound to work strenuously and with foresight for the protection of minors and their dignity”.
Participants in the congress, hosted by the Pontifical Gregorian University’s centre for child protection, appealed to governments, religious leaders and tech companies to do everything possible to remove online images of children and young people being sexually abused, identify and help those children, and end cyberbullying and “sextortion” – using sexual images to blackmail someone.
Contraceptive mandate revised
The Trump administration has issued interim rules expanding the exemption to the contraceptive mandate for religious employers, such as the Little Sisters of the Poor, who object on moral grounds to covering contraceptive and abortion-inducing drugs and devices in their employee health insurance.
Leaders of the US bishops’ conference praised the action as “a return to common sense … and peaceful coexistence between Church and state”.